I’ve been a fan of Call of Duty for a long, long time, and whilst it has seen a few ups-and-downs between entries, I’ve always found them exhilarating to play. That also rings true for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III, but for the first time in the franchise, I’ve also found myself feeling a little underwhelmed by what it offers. There’s plenty of fun to be had playing the game, but it feels rushed and lacks that meaty sense of substance players have come to expect from one of gaming’s most prolific titles.

Check out some screenshots down below:

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III’s narrative continues on from the previous game, with Task Force 141 now hunting down the evil Vladimir Makarov – that’s right, the same baddie from the original trilogy that masterminded the brutal ‘No Russian’ catastrophe. The stakes are high then, with players embarking on a globe-trotting mission to bring him down and prevent more civilian casualties along the way. It’s something that’s easier said than done though, with shocks aplenty during your fight against terrorism.

It feels like everything was put neatly in place for the campaign to deliver more of the same thrills and intriguing story beats that the series is known for, but I found it fell a little flat. The narrative did enough to keep me engaged, but the pacing felt a little off and made it difficult to feel emotionally invested in each character’s plight. Whilst the familiar faces have already been fleshed out across the last few entries in the series, everything in the narrative is pushed forward so quickly that the more emotionally charged moments don’t get a chance to breathe, with players moved on to the next part of the story with little opportunity for the dust to settle.

It doesn’t help that I found the Open Combat missions a bit tedious. I love my Call of Duty games to be full of linear levels that are packed with dramatic set pieces, thrilling shoot-outs, and a clear path to follow, but the more open world-style approach embraced here just felt misplaced and like it didn’t play to the series’ strengths. There’s certainly a place for this kind of mission and they do allow the game to introduce a couple of fresh ideas to the formula, but when they make up the bulk of the campaign, it’s hard not to miss the more bombastic action-packed linear levels that are most associated with the series.

When those classic-style missions do turn up? It’s great and shows that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III can still deliver on expectations. Some of the set pieces were especially destructive and memorable, so yeah, the game can hit the exciting heights that players have come to expect over the years. It just doesn’t happen often enough, and with the campaign being shorter this time around (you can expect to beat it in around four hours), it’s hard not to feel a bit underwhelmed. It’s not bad by any means and there’s fun to be had playing, but it is the weakest campaign that I’ve played across the series.

“The maps are absolutely fantastic too, but there’s a good reason: they’re remade version of the maps from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II (but the beloved 2009 version).”

Then you have the multiplayer, which maintains the same brilliant high standard that players would’ve been used to over the years. It’s fast-paced, frantic, and offers a nice balance of difficulty that allows it to cater to both newbies and veterans. It even carries over progression from the previous game, so any of the cool gear you’ve unlocked can be instantly accessed here, making for a more convenient transition for those who’ve already spent hundreds of hours with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II.

There’s a new game mode too, with Cutthroat putting players into three groups of three and setting them against each other in strategic showdowns, with each player having one life per round. It means each potential death comes with high stakes, whilst the lower player count gives more room for teamwork and tactical territorial play. It’s a lot of fun and offers a simple yet intuitive twist on the established game modes. And, of course, modes like Team Deathmatch, Invasion, Hardpoint, Ground War, Domination, and so forth are available too, so you’ve got some old favourites to go along with Cutthroat’s new approach.

The maps are absolutely fantastic too, but there’s a good reason: they’re remade version of the maps from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II (but the beloved 2009 version). Personally, I LOVED this because I put SO many hours into the game back in my younger years, whilst seeing them rebuilt to reach modern visual standards is awesome. There are some minor differences here and there, but for the most part they feel like a real blast to the past that that will prove mighty nostalgic for a lot of players. And if you didn’t play them back in the day? They’re some of the best maps in the series, so you’re still in for a treat.

It just feels a little… lazy. I’ve seen reports of a limited time developing the game so it’s somewhat understandable, but if you’re going to charge full price for a game, players will expect some fresh multiplayer content. It feels harsh to say because I loved the maps on offer, but a couple of newly designed maps just to give players something genuinely different to experience would have been nice. But hey, it’s the only complaint I have in what is otherwise an excellent multiplayer experience.

Check out some screenshots down below:

We can’t end this review without mentioning Zombies, which has changed up the formula by blending in elements of DMZ into the traditional undead-slaying experience. Players team up with up to two additional players to drop into the Urzikstan warzone to collect gear and complete objectives (divided up into Acts), all whilst dealing with the threat of the roaming undead. There are other teams partaking in the experience alongside you, with up to twenty-four players in a match at a time – you don’t have to worry about them though, with Zombies strictly limiting the action to PvE. There’s an emphasis placed on building your character’s loadout, enhancing it with new loot, and completing objectives to keep your progress pushing forward, whilst you can also use different abilities to provide a variety of useful effects.

I’ve not spent a whole lot of time with Zombies yet so can’t give a full rundown of everything it offers, but what I’ve played is fine. The sense of progression is rewarding and there can be some real thrills venturing through zombie-filled territories with friends, but the missions could be a little bare-boned and the focus on open-world exploration could slow the experience down. Again, much like the campaign, I preferred it when Zombies offered more confined levels that had an emphasis placed on fast-paced action and progress, but this different direction does at least offer a neat evolution for the formula that can be built upon. My opinion will probably sway back and forth the longer I spend with Zombies, but as it stands, I like it – even IF it isn’t the best take on the mode that I’ve seen in the series.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III Review

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III offers plenty of thrills, but a lack of fresh content and campaign misdirection makes it the most underwhelming entry in the franchise so far. It’s not that there’s anything outright bad here at all, but between the focus on the somewhat dull Open Combat missions in the short campaign and the lack of new maps in multiplayer, it’s clear that this year’s entry doesn’t always play to the franchise’s greatest strengths.

Does it make it a bad experience? Not at all, it’s great to play – I still loved the multiplayer action, the revamped maps from the original Modern Warfare II feel wonderful to re-visit, and the campaign does have moments where it shines (especially in the more traditional levels). It just lacks the content and consistent thrills seen in previous entries, with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III feeling like a bit of an off year for what is otherwise one of gaming’s more prolific franchises.

Developer: Sledgehammer Games
Publisher: Activision
Platform(s): PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
Website: https://www.callofduty.com/